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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The use of information: How new technology is changing discussions of privacy
by Corliss, Michael, M.A.L.S., Georgetown University, 2010, 130; 1475484
Abstract (Summary)

Advances in technology are shifting the focus of privacy concerns; commonplace transactions can generate information that is collected imperceptibly, and easily manipulated by ever improving automatic processes. It has become impractical, and often undesirable, to prevent personal information collection, processing, and use, but these are just the actions that policies have targeted to prevent privacy harms. Approaches to policy will need to adapt to secure privacy in an increasingly connected world.

To determine how, I review the history of privacy theory, beginning with its roots in the idea of a public-private divide and tracing its development to identify useful conceptions of privacy with which to evaluate policy. This discussion frames a look at recent and contemporary laws that protect privacy, and establishes the conceptual underpinnings of the prominent approaches to privacy, ‘Fair Information Practices’ and ‘the Harm Framework.’ I trace their development through major policies and policy recommendations up to the present day. I evaluate them, first in terms of their internal consistency, and then in light of new and anticipated technologies that are reshaping our world. I identify several trends in technology that current approaches to policy fail to account for.

Based in this foundation, I present policy recommendations that realistically address privacy concerns. What these technologies require is not just a modernization of policy, but a modernization of privacy itself. The boundaries of public and private are changing, and we need to choose where we will draw the line. Many of the privacy protections that we may desire are inconsistent with each other, so we must decide which we will sacrifice to protect the others. I argue that, because dignity harms are dependent upon dashed expectations, it is dignity harms that we should learn to accept, focusing instead on more tangible and disruptive harms.

This argument suggests two important changes for a successful privacy policy. The first is that privacy policy needs to accept and acknowledge sacrifice, explicitly rejecting protections against certain privacy harms in favor of others or of other social values. The second is that policy laws should be flexible: highly context dependent, and subject to periodic review to account for the inevitable changes of technology that will affect them. Ultimately, the value created by these technologies is more important than the short-term privacy harms that they entail.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: MacCarthy, Mark
School: Georgetown University
Department: Public Policy & Policy Management
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 48/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Information Technology, Public policy, Web Studies
Keywords: Information, Internet, Privacy, Technology, Transparency
Publication Number: 1475484
ISBN: 978-1-109-74520-7
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